Ceilings That Work: Designs for Your Space Above

Ceilings don’t have to be, and probably shouldn’t be, all flat, horizontal planes of white stained shingles. Whether a ceiling is shining, trayed, soffited or coffered, changing its elevation and contour can add spaciousness, definition and interest to a space. Using these architectural components can also break down the scale of a fantastic room, bringing to life a vast (and what could be dull ) space.

Playing the ceiling form and finish can also be a cost effective way of achieving something special and distinctive. Whether it’s a gabled vault in which the ceiling and structure will be the same, the accession of soffits with indirect illumination, or a bit of trimming to add scale and rhythm, ceilings are a design opportunity not to be missed.

Blackburn Architects, PC

A easy, gable vault in which the roof structure and ceiling finish have been combined makes for an efficient and elegant ceiling. Everything, like the skylights, metal tie rods and white walls, is performed to highlight the timber rafters. By placing the skylights at the ridge line rather than part way down the roof, a void is made that, like a retractable stadium roof, highlights the area’s connection to the sky.

I can not help but believe this would be a wonderful place for a baseball match regardless of what the weather outside.

Bud Dietrich, AIA

Here’s a good example of the classic tray ceiling used to attain spaciousness in a fantastic room. This remodeling job consisted of taking down a wall to create two rooms into one. To get around the oppressive feel that a constant, flat and 8′-large ceiling would make, the ceiling structure was raised a couple feet. In this ranch home space taken from the attic was an easy and cost-effective way to attain a well-proportioned room.

Sutton Suzuki Architects

The classic tray ceiling: this time at a bedroom. The beadboard finish and ceiling fan gives this room a tropical island feel. A particularly nice detail is how the ceiling, through the use of trim and crown molding, looks to begin on top of the windows. This has the effect of lowering the ceiling and creating more closeness, while the ceiling elevation adds spaciousness.

A tray ceiling like this offers a fantastic opportunity to set up indirect lighting. In this room, the indirect lighting offers generous general light and, using a change capable of dimming, can be turned to low for just the right, intimate level.

Christopher A Rose AIA, ASID

This ceiling comprises two measures of soffits. The first and lowest soffit follows the geometry of the space, as will the area rug directly below it. The higher soffit is a rectangular form to provide a centering device. This type of ceiling provides an order and arrangement to a room that incorporates different angles and asymmetry.

The lower soffit also provides a wider flat area at the mattress headboard. This wide and flat area gives more closeness at the headboard area as well as a place for ceiling-mounted things like grilles, speakers, etc..

Bud Dietrich, AIA

In a very simple bedroom using a low (less than 8′) ceiling, the measure up with indirect lighting provides spaciousness. Much like the above example, the stepped ceiling provides a centering apparatus in a room that has some angled walls and asymmetrical configuration.

Simply by borrowing from the attic area and adding some little framing extras, a ceiling like it is easily accomplished in a second-floor bedroom, or even a first floor room when there’s no second floor over.

Richard Bubnowski Design LLC

Here’s a nice little”pop-up” in an upstairs hall. Does this offer a place to hang a lantern with a very long string, but the extra bit of beadboard finish strengthens the coastal nature of the property’s style. A nice opportunity to achieve something special in what’s normally a simple, functional space.

Logan’s Hammer Building & Renovation

A little space with a tall ceiling can be a real design challenge. After all, who enjoys feeling as if they’re at the bottom of a Dixie cup? So in this example, the coffers, colours, beadboard and lighting keep this kitchen well dimensioned and comfortable to work in.

Another nice result from including a coffered ceiling, particularly in an old home undergoing a remodel, is your new space made for pipes, valves, conduit and other mechanical items. In this example, the visible air grille indicates that the coffers are used to hide ducts.

Yet another more costly way of employing the coffer to hide ducts while averting a grille like this is to introduce a linear, slot-type diffuser at the face of the coffer.

Harrell Remodeling, Inc..

The panels at a coffered ceiling could be of just about any substance. In this example, the panels are both decorative and translucent, allowing the lighting to come from a source hidden above the ceiling line. The plan of those coffer panels is very structured: a series of layered grids at a fun, somewhat abstract design of solid colours.

This large room has multiple action areas, each positioned beneath its own coffered ceiling. Even though the overlapping grids provide general order and structure, the colours reinforce the middle of the ceiling and each activity area.

Crisp Architects

A coffered ceiling can also be used to counterbalance a room’s decor. Here, this tasteful and earthy, deeply coffered ceiling adds structure and visual weight to the space, balancing the wall color and furniture style.

Max Crosby Construction

There’s no rule that says that coffers have to be a rectangular grid. In this case the coffering starts at the center rotated square and radiates out from there. This sets a geometry that is independent of the area’s shape, adding another layer of interest and detail to the space.

The timber coffered ceiling also strengthens the silent and serious character of the library-like room.

Occasionally a simple, wood paneled ceiling with wood beams is the answer. In this room, the timber beams divide down the large space while the timber finishes tie everything together.

In a room in which the main sitting area is away from the source of light and see, the timber beams direct the eye towards the window and out to the landscape outside.

Kenneth Fromme

At times the easiest approach is the most effective. Adding some thin, pencil-line trimming and panels that are raised to the ceiling adds just the ideal level of detail without needing too much attention to itself. And, since in this situation, in which there are lots of patterns and colours all around, including a regular and easy gridded pattern to the ceiling can add just the correct amount of structure.

Bud Dietrich, AIA

Extra height and well designed ceilings aren’t just for dining rooms, living rooms, bedrooms and other big rooms. A simple, spare and functional mudroom can be produced light, bright and spacious with a vaulted ceiling.

More: Watch the wonder of Barrel-Vaulted Ceilings
How to Produce a Tall Room Feel Right

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